European footballers with african roots

5 worldclass European footballers with surprising african roots

Words: James Freemantle 
Photo: Getty Images

We could have been watching a few more smaller nations at recent World Cups had these star players followed their African roots 

Players from the African continent regularly make massive contributions at some of the biggest football clubs around Europe.

But for every Yaya Touré and Didier Drogba, players who have gone on to become heroes for the Ivory Coast, there might have been just as many European stars who trod a similar path by pledging their allegiance to the African countries to which their personal history is surprisingly linked.

Here are five players that have enjoyed great success on Europe’s biggest stages but could have played for:

  1. Burundi
  2. Democratic Republic of Congo
  3. Ghana
  4. Guinea
  5. Cape Verde

Kevin De Bruyne

Once upon a time, Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne was eligible to play for Burundi. The baby faced playmaker’s mother is from the landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of East Africa but she has also spent some of her life in places as contrasting as England and The Ivory Coast. 

De Bruyne has been in scintillating form for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City this season, acting as the creative fulcrum central to their style of play. Can he lead them to the title this season? 

A perfect afternoon! ⚽️ #mcfc

A post shared by Kevin De Bruyne (@kevindebruyne) on

Christian Benteke

The Belgian theme continues with Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke. The burly ex-Liverpool man was born in the country formerly known as Zaire, modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Benteke was prolific for Genk and then Aston Villa, averaging a goal every other game in over 120 appearances for the two clubs. His big-money move to Liverpool yielded much less success, to say the least, but the hitman appears to be reinvigorated in London after another move north of £30m. 

Christian Benteke - Timeline | Facebook

Christian Benteke. 945,148 likes · 1,483 talking about this. Official facebookpage -- twitter: @chrisbenteke

Jerome Boateng 

When pundits put together their choices of the finest central defenders on the planet, the Germany international’s name is never too far from the top of those lists. Jerome Boateng was discarded by Manchester City in 2011 and almost immediately started his ascent to the top of the game at Bayern Munich

Jerome was born to a Ghanaian father and is the younger half-brother of controversial ex-Ghana international player Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Chest out! It's matchday! #AtletiFCB #packmas #Repost @fcbayern #miasanmia

A post shared by Jerome Boateng (@jeromeboateng) on

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Paul Pogba 

The world’s most expensive player was born to Guinean parents. In fact, the Manchester United star man’s older twin brothers Florentin and Mathias are both capped by the relatively small West African country and Paul might well have gone that route too. 

The rest, as they say, is history and now Paul Labile Pogba is one of the key men for France who only narrowly lost out on ultimate glory at Euro 2016.

Paul Labile Pogba - Timeline | Facebook

Paul Labile Pogba. 5,506,178 likes · 196,686 talking about this. This is the Official Page for Paul Labile Pogba


The Portugal winger, born in Cape Verde, went one better than his former United teammate  by lifting the prize in Paris. 

Although Nani made the move across the Mediterranean at an early age and was far too young to consider representing the Cape Verde national football team, it’s still remarkable when a winner of Europe’s most prestigious international football trophy, the European Championship, was born in a tiny northwest African country boasting a population of less than half a million people.

Bom treino antes do jogo com o Betis, vamos ...

Bom treino antes do jogo com o Betis, vamos fazer sentir o verdadeiro Mestalla! Buen entrenamiento antes del partido con el Betis, vamos hacer sentir el verdadero Mestalla! Good training before the game with Betis, let's make feel the real Mestalla!

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10 2016 The Red Bulletin

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